Saturday, December 4, 2010

Quarter 1 is done...phew

For those of you following me, I apologize for being so long without any entries but it appears the hurricane got the better of me. I am going to be better by trying to update at least once a week.

So the first quarter is over and I have only one thing to say about it....I am very glad it is over!!

So, since the hurricane, the tsunami or whatever it is you want to call it has hit there are some things that have changed and some things that have stayed the lessons from the first quarter.

1. You can not fully prepare for the craziness that is medical school.
I have spent 2 years here at Midwestern, I thought I had gotten into a good groove and was somewhat prepared well for the transition to medical school.
I have only one thing to say about this....I was wrong!
I do not think anything can prepare you for the craziness that is medical school. Of course, I am trying to keep some semblance of a normal life. I still try to take time to have dinner with my family, we still do our family lunch together on the weekend on Saturdays or Sundays...I still help the kiddos with their homework...I still do all the things that a mommy does. Of course, our diet does not always consist of homemade and takeout from some local restaurants are commonplace. Talk about mommy guilt...ugh. But I digress.
So, the craziness. I think the most craziness is imparted by anatomy. Oh boy anatomy. Now I am one of those people who took anatomy in undergrad, which was fairly exhaustive and rigorous. Yeah...all that knowledge lasted me about a week if that. Plus, I had never dissected before, my previous anatomy lab had a prosected cadaver (more on this topic later). You can not get behind in we have weekly quizzes in OMM lab and in Biochem so you need to keep up in those classes as everything else. Sometimes I feel like there are not enough hours in the day...but I am managing.

2. You can not panic and you must be willing to change your study strategy.
Back to anatomy lab. So I admit I was one of the ones in the first day of class who when they said that half the class would fail the first anatomy practical thought that it would ever be me, there was no way that would happen.
Well, you can guess what happened......I failed. Not just barely but I am talking failed majorly. I think I could not have studied and done about the same...ugh.
So did I panic? Absolutely.
Did I cry? You bet.
Did I freak out? 1001% YES!!!
Did I dwell on it and make no changes to what I was doing? No way.
So what then did I do?
I immediately went to talk to two of the anatomy professors and told them how I had prepared for the practical and asked how I should study instead because it was painfully obvious that what I had done was not sufficient to prepare for the practical exam portion. Both of them gave me some excellent suggestions. I took all the suggestions they gave me, some of which overlapped, and I applied them to the second unit exam.
What was the end result of these changes?? Much to my surprise, I did better on the second unit practical than I did on the written exam. Yay me :)
The moral of the have to recognize that what you are doing may not work and be willing to change it.

3. Coffee and crock pots are your friends.
So I will admit my crock pot has not gotten as much use as I would have liked in the 1st quarter but I think this quarter I am going to ramp up the use of the crock pot. I just have to find some more good recipes for the crock pot that will be easy to make in the morning and be ready in the afternoon when I come home from school.
I was a semi-regular coffee drinker before med school. I would drink it on occasions but I would not drink it on a regular basis. Coffee is now my friend. I drink a cup in the morning on my way to school and a cup or two during the day.

4. Sleep...what sleep? Who needs sleep??
Okay, I get sleep. I do, really I do.
I just do not get as much sleep as I would like.
I am a 8-9 hour of sleep per night kind of gal.
That in med school is out the window. I get about 6-7 hours a night.
Thus the coffee.
And I get slightly more sleep on the weekends...but not by much. The munchkins are still on school schedule.

5. Living close to school is a must.
So I live 30 miles or so away, which amounts to about an 1 hr commute one way to school, not counting in any traffic from construction or weather or anything else that happens here in Chicago.
So we came up with a solution.
As of the middle of September, I have a dorm room on campus. It is used occasionally, I split my time with the main focus being before tests, will be on bad weather days/nights coming up here in the winter to avoid the extra commute time, and I have also been using it to crash in Friday night so that I can go into the anatomy lab to do cadaver work on Saturday mornings.
I am one of the few in my class who lives more than about a 20 minute drive from school and that is honestly too long. So if you have the option, please learn from my mistake and live close to school.

6. OMM is still awesome :)
I think OMM is one of those things you either love or tolerate. I happen to fall in the love category. I have used it on my family members to help them and they know it works, I know it works...and it is something I am kind of good at. Plus, it still feels great to get out of a lecture hall for a few hours a week and be active and do feel useful rather than simply being lectured at.

7. You will find friends....and they will be your saving grace.
I was a bit worried at the beginning of the year. It seemed like I was so much older than my classmates, that I was the only one who had kids, that I had this long commute. What on earth would I have in common with them?
But in the sea of classmates, I have found the ones who I like, who I can talk to, who I can commiserate with and who I am honored to call my friend.
They were all there for me when I failed my first anatomy practical, they offered ears and support.
They were there for me when my family lost our 13 1/2 year old golden retriever last month. So many offered a kind word or a hug, I was truly honored to know that I was so thought of.

8. You need a support absolutely NEED a support system especially if you are doing this with a family/fiancee/spouse/long term significant other etc.
My parents, my girlfriend and my spouse have been invaluable throughout this process. This is one of those where it truly does take a village.
It is not just you who goes through this process, it is your family. We prepared the best we could by making sure the kids were not involved in many extracurricular activities and letting everyone know I would need some advanced notice for any family gatherings.
And yes it can be tough at times, I have missed some family gatherings. I have not seen my grandmother as much as I would like to, I do not see my parents as much as I would like to. But I make time because family is important to me.
So this leads me to my last point......

9. You make time for what is important to you and you laugh.
You need to keep your sense of will keep you sane. Your family will keep you sane.
Medical school and studying does not take up all your time, you can make time for whatever is important to you.
For me, that is family. I make sure to make time for them. Without them I would not be here, without them I could not be here and without them I will not make it through here.
Bless them for putting up with me during this craziness.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Out of the harbor and into the hurricane.....

When we were in orientation, we were told that this first month was the equivalent of the harbor. So then of course the question comes up as to why. Well we are not fully in all of our classes yet, we only started dissecting in gross anatomy last week and are not fully invested in that as of yet. We also have not really started Biochemistry, which when we begin this week will be more hours per week. And of course Intro to Clinical Medicine has also been off of our radar screen and that starts on Friday morning. The test schedule also ramps up, we will have a Biochem quiz/test every week on Friday starting next week along with the OMM weekly workshop quizzes. In addition to those, by the end of September I will also have the second Histology written exam, the second Histology practical exam, the first anatomy case quiz to do, the first anatomy quiz, the first anatomy mini practical, the first OMM written, the first OMM practical, a paper to work on for History of Medicine and of course the White Coat Ceremony to attend. Phew, I am tired just considering all of that, much less doing I guess that is why they told us to be prepared for the hurricane that is coming after Labor day....well ladies and gentlemen, I say bring it on!! I know I am crazy to do so, but having worked for such a long time to even get here to this point I am trying to relish everything and embrace these challenges.

So, what has my experience been and the lessons I have learned from this harbor period that I will have to incorporate going ahead into the infamous hurricane.....

1. A stand alone chest or upright freezer is going to be a must.
We have a side-by-side fridge/freezer combo in the kitchen, which unfortunately does not leave much room in the freezer portion. I wanted one of the fridge/freezer combos that has the fridge on top and the freezer beneath in a drawer but we could not find one that would fit underneath our cabinet above the area where it is in the kitchen when we were looking. On a complete aside, why put a cabinet there to begin with, it is not like anyone actually puts anything there much less can reach that unless you are using as tool. But I digress. So we used to have an extra fridge/freezer in our garage but after many years of loyal service it went kaput on us. We have to this point not yet replaced it, but we have reached the decision that we need to do so in fairly short order. The commute home has been not quite fun (more on this later), which is leaving me struggling to have dinner ready at a semi decent hour. So to not have to rely on take out and fast food so often, we are going to invest in a stand up freezer to stock up with various items from Market day and ready-to-make items from the store to easily be made in short order as well as to have stuff on hand that I can place in the crock pot in the morning that will be ready in the evening and also to store extra casseroles, etc that I can make on the weekends.

2. The commute sucks and I need to figure out how to make more productive time of the 10-12 hours a week I am spending in the car.
It is times like this, when roads are under heavy construction, that I wish I either lived closer to campus or I was attending a campus where taking public transportation. I will say one thing and one thing only...road construction sucks!!! I do not know that I will ever be as happy to hail cooler weather and snow as it means the end of this road construction and the reversion of my commute time to an hour rather than the hour twenty to an hour forty five it can be right now. I have tried going various side roads but the commute time is either the same due to the presence of stoplight or in many cases increased. I think for now the best thing I can do in the morning is get off a few exits earlier since the exit where I normally get off is really kind of crazy in the morning, especially with the new lane divisions into an "express" (one lane) and "local" (two lanes). Needless to say I will be very happy to see snow and hail the end of the construction season here in Chi-town. So I need to figure out how to maximize my commute time. I do record the lectures, but I am used to looking at the words on the page while I listen to them so I can follow along. I have found through the years that I am neither a strictly auditory or visual learner but rather a blend between the two...I not only need to hear but I also have to see at the same time for my brain to make the maximum number of connections between material. I think I may try to listen to them by themselves or perhaps recording myself reading the material or guidelines or something. I have to figure out a way to make this time not a waste. Although it is nice to relax and not think about school sometimes, I think I can put some of it to use.

3. I can do this.
This, I think, is the most important lesson of the past 4 weeks. Of the tests and quizzes I have had so far, my absolute lowest score was an 84% and that was in the first Histology writtem (multiple choice) exam. Other than that, every test I have taken has been in the A range so I have to say I am pretty satisfied with myself. Whatever doubt I have left gets slightly smaller with each grade, with each success.

So while I know I have some adjustments to make, and I am slightly glad that I have had this introductory period to determine what those adjustments may be, I have to say that overall the first month has been an overwhelming success.
I love where I am....I know that I am where I am destined to be, doing what I am destined to do. That word gets thrown out a lot....destiny. But I know that I am now doing what I am supposed to be doing.

So here is to surviving the harbor....and facing the hurricane head on.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Little old me

Ever since I got into school, and since then, I have had various people I do not really know telling me congrats and what an inspiration my story has been to them.
And it amazes me.
It is amazing to think that little old me, sitting here taking a break from the biochem that is not really biochem, could serve as an inspiration to anyone.
And it is awe inspiring to think that someone out there looks to me as a beacon of hope, of light....that someone looks at me and sees the possibilities.
I am in awe and speechless and dumbfounded.
So thank you.....thank you to everyone who has believed in me, thank you to those who have hoped with me, who have cried with me and thank you to those who now look to me as a source of inspiration. I promise with all my heart I will do my best and prove that this can be done.

As my t-shirt says today....
"Your impossible dream can become a reality"

Here is to my impossible dream becoming one and hoping that anyone reading this for inspiration has their impossible dream come true as well.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reflections on the first week

I think this week has been one which has brought many unknowns and new experiences as well as being one which has proved to me at least that you should never take anything for granted. So here is an overview of my first week....

Started the morning with History of Medicine. The professor of this class is genuinely engaging and funny. Even though we only have a paper and technically do not have to attend this class, I will be going since I enjoy his lectures so much.
Then we had two hours of psychiatry. Call me jaded, but being a psychology major this class so far has absolutely nothing to do with psychiatry. So I am now referring to it as the "Holy Roman Empire" class. Yes this is based on the old Saturday Night Live skit. "The Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy nor Roman nor an Empire...discuss."
An hour break for lunch.
Then another hour of the Holy Roman Empire class.
Then the class I think makes me the most anxious. 2 hours of anatomy. *gulp* The first hour they scared us by showing us some test stats from last years class...*double eek*. Then we did the intro lecture which was basically all the terms we would be using over the course of the next few quarters.
Overall it was not too bad of a first day.

started nice and early (8:10am) with Biochem. Now this is not really biochem but an intro to evidence based medicine so for the next four weeks my biochem has nothing to do with biochem and is more of a second Holy Roman empire class. And the paperwork. I guess this is where having worked in the corporate world comes in handy and being used to paperwork and team building activities comes into play.
Then it was two more hours of the other Holy Roman Empire class..aka psychiatry.
An hour break for lunch.
Then 2 hours of histology. we covered all the cell structure stuff in an hour and a half.

Another early morning, but today I got to wear scrubs!!! Today was the first day of OMM. The class was interesting as we learned about the history more in depth and then it was off to lab and learn about anatomical landmarks. It felt good after sitting in lectures all week to get up and do something active and use my hands. It was fun and I think I am really going to enjoy this class a ton!!!.
After lunch we had a 2 hour lecture in Anatomy on embryology. I love embryology so I enjoyed this lecture. I am grateful I have had more in depth embryology classes before though as I think if i was missing this I would have been a little overwhelmed with the sheer amount of material presented. I am sure within the next few weeks I will be not loving anatomy but so far it has not been as bad as I expected it to be.

This is the day where everything went to heck in a handbasket.
I have known for some time that my iron ran on the low side of normal and that I was mildy anemic in part most likely due to my gastric bypass. My doctor had moved and I had decided to find someone closer to go to. My new doctor had decided to test my transferrin saturation to determine how my body's iron reserves were doing. The results were shocking to say the least. My transferrin saturation was 4%, anything below 20% is considered really bad. So basically my body has been using my own iron stores for some time now and I needed an IV iron infusion since I was no longer absorbing iron orally. So that was set up for this morning. The plan was to get the iron infusion and then go to class.
I did fine through most of my iron infusion. Then they disconnected me and I was ready to go. When I went to the lobby to go to the bathroom before I left I noticed that my legs started feeling funny, like they were being pricked with a million pins and my cheeks were feeling really warm and flush. I looked down at my legs and noticed they were reddish and mottled looking and appeared to have hives. When I looked in the mirror I noticed that my cheeks were really red and were also starting to get some hives. So I went back to the center where I had my infusion and they told me that I was indeed having an allergic reaction to the infusion. So I needed a dose of corticosteroids, benadryl and then some IV fluids. They also gave me reglan and pepcid since my stomach was not feeling so good.
Needless to say, I did not make it to histology lecture today.
In talking with my doctor later, we will never know what I reacted to. I could be reacting to the chemicals that the iron was complexed with which are supposed to help it go into the tissues or I could have been having a reaction to having that much iron in my system since it takes a while for the body to take up the iron from the bloodstream. We will be looking for a less toxic alternative, but I will still do preventative measures of corticosteroids and benadryl before I receive my next infusion to help stave off any adverse reactions.

We only had biochem today. for this I was glad since I was still not quite feeling up to doing much. We were done by noon and then I went to have my second step of my TB test done as well as a titer drawn at the wellness center. I had a doctors appointment on my way home since he wanted to see me due to the reaction I had yesterday as well as get a B12 shot. And finally, my maintenance light was on in my car so I took it to the car dealership and got the oil changed.

I also decided to undertake a photo project known as Project 365, This is a project where you take a picture a day for a year. The hopes is to document the things around you as they change and the changes in you as well. From time to time, I will share some of the photos from this here. So here are some photos from the first week of med school :)

a picture of the much awaited id complete with the title "Medical Student":

The first day of OMM, rocking the Tinkerbelle scrubs!!!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Halfway through orientation....

A list of random things I have learned through the first few days of orientation......

1. There is a hurricane coming at me so I should be prepared
2. I am going to learn how to drink from a firehose willingly
3. If you need me I will be studying, studying or studying ;)
4. A fair number of my classmates, possibly me, will have academic difficulties during the course of the year.
5. My ID card which worked 2 weeks ago on every door at campus now no longer works on the doors but does however still let me in the front gate...very confusing.
6. I have about a month, maybe month and a half, before the geese invade and I am dogding goose poop on the sidewalk again
7. I will get to use the brand new OMM lab next year....YAY!!!
8. I will *not* get to use the brand new anatomy lab *sigh* (it too opens next year)
9. Pretty heels are not good for long days
10. Parking while garage construction is going on is going to be a pain in the behind
11. More people on campus know me than I knew did....still trying to figure out if this is a good thing or a bad thing. So much for keeping ones head
12. Presentations really can be that long.

And the most important two........

13. There is no place I would rather be than where I am right now!!!
14. My classmates are some pretty cool people :)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Twas the night before orientation.......

And all through the house the kiddos were stirring.....
the excitement was in the air and their motors are still whirring.
There were the clicks of teh keyboard as the final paragraph of the thesis was written.
There was aloe placed on sunburn, of course only after baths have been given.
The dinner was cereal...too much junk eaten at the day at the lake...
and yes we did eat cake :)
The clothes were laid out on the bed, prepped with much care
Now only if I could do something with this oh too short hair!!!
There will be coffee in the morning, of that I am sure
For the first early morning in weeks it is bound to be the only cure.
The lunches of pb&j will be packed for the munchkins,
and my bag is filled to the brim with all sorts of gumptions.
The nerves are a buzzing, and so will be the alarm...
I guess I should be glad I do not work on a farm ;)
In the hopes for a relaxing evening, the nerves won the war
And I am left hoping that all the sessions we must attend tomorro are not a bore.
I will have some old friends and new friends and a new group too....
If we all work together I am sure we will all get through.
And so I say as I lay my head down for the night....
"Happy orientation day to all and to all a good night!!!"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The best laid plans...(aka - that's life)

So my plan for the next few weeks seemed relatively simple.
Purge the house.
The purpose of purging the house is also simple...need to get rid of all this excess clutter in our lives before things get crazy and we do not get a chance to do so.
Also, I want a chest freezer in my garage. Why? Well, I will need access to simple ready to make meals and frankly my side by side does not hold enough to do anything of the sort.
So Monday:
I was waiting for a dumpster and waiting for the water softener guy to come. Needless to say, I did not get much done.
And then Tuesday:
I got a call in the morning about Scarlett who was at girl scout camp. She was running a fever and I went and picked her up as well as took her to the pediatrician to rule out strep. Needless to say I did not get much done yesterday either.
And here we are today:
Scarlett and Declan are both home today with whatever bug they have and I have a feeling there is not much getting done today either.....


Such is life.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The beginning

So I have often toyed with starting a blog and documenting this amazing journey but I am often left wondering where to start.
As good of a place to start is the I got here. So pull up a chair, grab a bowl of popcorn and settle in for a heck of a story.

The journey really started in high school. I struggled in Advanced Biology and my guidance counselor did not think it was a wise idea for me to take general chemistry my sophomore year like the remainder of my classmates. However, still needing more science credits to graduate, I elected to take a genetics course as that was the only portion of biology I found I had a love for and understood. Towards the end of the semester, we discussed careers in genetics. It was then that I heard about what I thought was my career to be...genetic counselor. It seemed like a perfect combination...the genetics I loved and the chance to be with people (and I am nothing if not a people person). So I finished high school with this idea brewing in my head of what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be as well as what I thought a career would be like.
I did not go away to college immediately, as I had struggled with high school, instead I opted to go to community college and take classes there to start. I was surprised to find that college suited me much better than high school. I attended some of the college fair nights and asked the representatives in attendance what I would have to do to begin a career as a genetic counselor. I was surprised and dismayed when no one appeared to know what I was talking about and could not tell me how to get from point A to point B. I began to give up on being able to follow my dream and started to consider other career options.
My second love has always been writing. Somehow I figured I would combine writing with sports and I ended up At Southern Illinois University in Carbondale to pursue a major ion radio-television. It was a perfect storm of things that happened which lead to my ultimate failure. There were a lot of personal things that happened in my life, including my grandmother being diagnosed with lung cancer and receiving death threats at school. However, there were also other factors, the school did not follow their policy for intervening with failing students. But none of that matters because I was not pursuing what I really in my heart thought I wanted to do.
I began looking into becoming a genetic counselor again and using the web to figure out how to get from point A to point B. It was at this time that I figured out I would need to get degree in Biology and that it was a Masters degree I was looking at pursuing. After going back to community college once again and wondering where I would end up I finally found a home at University of Wisconsin-Parkside. My wonderful advisor here believed in me when I did not believe in myself, had faith in me when I lacked it and had complete confidence in me that I could accomplish anything I could set my mind to. While I was here, I took part in a shadowing experience when I was pregnant with my son in the summer of 2003 with a genetic counselor to meet the requirements of applying to the programs. I had this wonderful picture in my mind of what this profession would be like, this thing I had worked and wanted for so long.....and then I saw it in person and I was shocked. What I saw in person was not even close to what I had envisioned in my mind....I knew that the path I was on was not the one I was suppose to be on. At the end of the summer the wonderful group I was with met with me briefly to see if there was anything they could do to aid my application process, how I enjoyed my experience, etc. I told them that I tremendously enjoyed the experience (which I did) but that it was not quite the career I had envisioned. When they asked me what I wanted and I told them, that is when they dropped the "d" word on me. "Doctor". And that is also when I did my best impression of a 2 yr old and threw the temper tantrum of all temper tantrums and refusing to believe that I would be a doctor....I could not be a doctor I could not ask my family to sacrifice *that*. There just had to be another way and I was determined to find it. So I looked...I looked under every rock, turned over every stone, explored every possible other option and found myself lacking. everything required me to sacrifice something I wanted, everything asked me to change what I wanted...and I began to realize maybe just maybe I would be a doctor. So my final year at Parkside I became the thing I had worked so hard to avoid...the thing I had dreaded not even a year prior....I became a premed!! And of course I had t o do all the lovely premed take the MCAT. Yeah, I recommend studying longer than 4 months for that beast :) I could not apply until the summer after my senior year however and my life was about to get uprooted.
We got transferred to New I applied to east coast schools. I quickly discovered they had very little love for a nontraditional student with some questionable marks on her record and a less than stellar MCAT. Just as I began talking to admissions reps out there, we had made the decision we wanted to come back to the Midwest if we one was happy on the east coast. The schools there placed the idea of a Master's program in my my one and only shot at getting in to med school. So I began exploring programs on the east coast as well as back in the midwest and had my life changing surgery (my gastric bypass on tax day - April 15 2005). shortly after, we found out we would indeed have the chance to move back to Illinois and I applied to Loyola and Rosalind Franklin.
I never heard back from Loyola but was wait listed at Franklin. Then I got the call, two days before orientation was scheduled to begin, that I was in. I was thrilled and excited and happy. Here we went. Then life throws another curve ball at me....I was pregnant with my youngest daughter. It was an exceedingly risky pregnancy as I was still in the part of my weight loss journey where I was losing a lot of weight. I also began to have gallbladder issues. During one midterm week I became exceedingly ill, to the point of dehydration and some early contractions and had to be hospitalized and missed my biochem midterm making my final worth an extraordinarily large percentage of my grade. I was focused on trying to survive and get ready to add to our family, and ended up missing the gpa cutoff to continue by one question. The one question I had the right answer to but changed.....proof positive you should always trust your instincts and never change your answer! I also felt the confidence I finally found slipping away....I was floundering again, I was underwater again.
I looked for advice and was told I was done. I had my chance and I had blown it. I would be forever blacklisted...I would never get into med school...I would never be able to pursue my dreams.
I talked with an admission rep from the local state med school and he told me there was a chance, if I did good on my MCAT, got in my app early and got my grad gpa up to a 3.0. So I spent a year taking classes at NIU as a grad student at large and brought my gpa up as well as got my confidence back.
I took a year off, went to the local community college, got my first responder certification and applied one last time..I swore it was the last. I got the email from Midwestern offering to transfer my application to the Biomedical sciences program and I did. And I was placed on the wait list...again. But I would get off....again...this time about a week prior to orientation.
This is where I found myself...this is where I have thrived. I have approached everything differently I have been a different student and person and family member...I have had to be.
And I applied to CCOM...I knew Midwestern was where I wanted to be. I was placed on the alternate list for admissions...again. And somehow, someway, they found me deserving and I was called on June 30th...a full month and a few odd days before orientation.
Through all of this I have worked with doctors in the ER, I have shadowed, I have gained an understanding that this is truly what I am meant to do.
People talk about a calling, people talk about destiny, people talk about the thing that you know you were meant to do........well my thing, my destiny, my path begins in a few weeks.
Will it be challenging??
Heck yes.
Will it be manageable?
I know so....I think we as a family can handle anything.
Will it bring me to tears?
I am sure there will be tears...happy and sad and frustrated and angry and mad.
But they will be worth it...the dream is worth destiny is worth it.

In the words of Robert Frost:
"two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference."

And of course the ever present Grateful Dead:
"What a long, strange trip it has been."